Somehow — and I don’t know legally how this has happened — there are several films that outright use the Purge as their plot. I understand how the parodies happen but there’s one movie that. just can’t figure out how no one was sued.
Then again, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Universal, Platinum Dunes Productions and James DeMonaco have finally put an end to a four-year-old lawsuit that alleged the horror smash The Purge was ripped off from another writer. On Friday, the parties informed a California court that the case was being dropped after a settlement.
Douglas Jordan-Benel brought the lawsuit alleging the film — about an annual 12-hour period where all crime is legal — derived from his screenplay called Settler’s Day. As the plaintiff navigated one hurdle after another in litigating his copyright and breach of contract claims, The Purge spawned sequels and a TV series. Jordan-Benel stated in court papers that the plot of both works was “virtually identical” and in his complaint, the plaintiff focused on the submission of his script to the UTA talent agency, which also represents DeMonaco.”
After a four-year case, the article goes on to reveal certain documents suggested that DeMonaco’s script may have predated Jordan-Benel’s. Then, a huge fight broke out over whether there was any evidence tampering, which led to Jordan-Benel gaining great access to early versions of The Purge screenplay and emails. There was a settlement and the notice of the dismissal was unusually specific and favorable to DeMonaco, with the court stating, “In light of information produced in discovery demonstrating Defendant James DeMonaco’s independent creation of The Purge, Plaintiff has agreed to dismiss his lawsuit with prejudice, in exchange for a waiver by Defendants of any claim for an award of fees and costs.”
Here are the movies that came after and how they relate to the original films:
Meet the Blacks (2016): Directed by Deon Taylor, who wrote this with Nicole DeMasi, Meet the Blacks finds that family — led by Carl (Mike Epps) — getting out of Chicago after stealing some money from drug kingpin Key Flo (Charlie Murphy in his last role). Once settling in Beverly Hills, Mike and his wife Lorena (Zulay Henao) and kids Allie Black (Bresha Webb) and Carl Jr. (Alex Henderson) discover that they ended up in town at the absolute worst time. Yes, they’re here on the day of The Purge.
The best joke is that George Lopez is President El Bama, but hey, Paul Mooney is also a Klan member, plus Mike Tyson, Tyrin Turner and Perez Hilton are in this too. It’s not exactly great, but the fact that this movie just outright uses The Purge is pretty audacious. If the racial issues of the first few movies were too under the surface for you — they are not — this movie goes all out.
Not to be outdone, Taylor and most of the cast returned for The House Next Door: Meet the Blacks 2, which is literally Fright Night with Katt Williams as a pimp version of Jerry Dandrige. Maybe this was the movie that Herschell Walker was really watching?
Evil At the Door (2022): For almost a hundred years, The Locusts have treated their followers to one night — three hours — where they can do anything they want to a selected home and any of the people they find inside. The Locusts have selected the home of Daniel (Matt O’Neill, Candy Corn) and Jessica (Sunny Doench, Coffin). Complicating matters is that there may be a Locust who isn’t on the same side as everyone else, plus Jessica’s sister Liz (Andrea Sweeney Blanco) is hiding under the bed trying to escape.
Like a combination of The Strangers and The Purge, the film begins with John Doe (Bruce Davison, who has nearly 300 credits, but may be best known for being in X-Men as Senator Kelly; you may also recognize him from The Lords of Salem or The Crucible) invites the cult’s member to initiate the Night of the Locusts.
A family that barely gets along being surrounded by four cult members who can get away with anything that happens. Great set-up, right? Yes, it is. The execution — CGI stabbings instead of practical effects and costumes that look like the Wish version of Ghost from Call of Duty — take away the good will that the opening created.
Fans of TV’s Dynasty and The Colbys will, at least, be happy to see John James (Jeff Colby!) show up. His next movie is My Son Hunter, playing President Biden. It’s directed by Robert Davi and stars Gino Carano so…
Director, writer, producer, editor and one of the actors — he’s Truman — Kipp Tribble did more than just two or three things on this movie. I wish that he could have followed up on pieces he set in motion. That said, he’s figured out how to pull this movie together with a small crew and a low budget.
The Binge (2020): Directed by Jeremy Garelick and written by Jordan VanDina, The Binge is about a world where no one can drink or do drugs except for 12 hours, once a year, just like…yeah, you got it. This follows the adventures of Griffin (Skyler Gisondo), Hags (Dexter Darden) and Andrew (Eduardo Franco), three guys who have just turned eighteen and are now eligible to take part of America’s one part day of pleasure.
Griffin is in love with Lena (Grace Van Dien), whose father (Vince Vaughn) is the overprotective principal of their school. Of course he ends up being an old partier and everyone is happy, yet a 2020 drug movie has none of the wacky ramshackle charm of Cheech and Chong, its plot as manufactured as the scientifically grown weed. You know where the highs are coming from, but some of those old bags of comedic hash sometimes could give you the kind of laughs that stay with you for the rest of your life. This is not that strain.
The Binge 2: It’s A Wonderful Binge (2022): Hulu has bought another The Binge film and set it at Christmas and man, we hit the algorithm right on this week. Directed and written by Jordan VanDina, this year’s Binge comes during the holidays, which seems like when it should always be if you can only drink and do drugs for 12 hours a year.
Hags (Dexter Darden) is trying to stay sober so that he can propose to his girlfriend Sarah (Zainne Saleh) while his friend Andrew (Eduardo Franco) wants to use all those powders, pills, drinks and smokes to get through the time he has to spend with his family. All while Mayor Spengler (Kaitlin Olsen) is trying to get her town — and her daughter Kimmi (Marta Piekarz) to end The Binge just as her brother Kris (Nick Swardson) escapes from prison.
It’s nice to see Tim Meadows, Danny Trejo and Paul Scheer get some work, but this movie seems like a child who has just learned to swear or worse, a college kid who comes back home for Christmas obsessed with smoking grass. It tries — the animated part is kind of humorous — but I just know we’re going to get a third one. And you know me. I’m going to sit through it.
2025: Red White and Blue (2022): I get the urge to purge a The Purge ripoff from your system, but how can you make a parody that’s 2 hours and 15 minutes long?
In the year 2025, the 45th President of the United States of America — look, this is automatically the most horrifying film of the year just with the rest of this sentence — gets back in the White House, restarts the Purge, rebuilds the wall and gets ready to Make America Safe Again.
Bill Wilson (Grid Magraf), agent of FIRE (Forest and Immigration Raking Enforcement), is two weeks from returning, getting too old for this excrement and has just finished the bust of his life taking down a Mexican drug cartel. However, some dirty agents want the evidence and plan on using The Purge to get it from his house.
This is an equal opportunity movie, making fun of Biden as a pedophile, Trump as a man reduced to filming The Apprentice and urinating online for hits and liberals maybe even more devoted to murder than the right wing gun owners they argue against. There’s something for everyone to be offended by here, mostly that this takes so long and can get away with outright being a Purge movie despite it being made by anyone other than Blumhouse.
Am I missing any more Purge-inspired ripoffs? Let me know!
I mean, one can argue that The Purge was ripped off from “The Return of the Archons,” an episode of the classic Star Trek.
This is not a test.
This is your emergency broadcast system announcing the commencement of the Annual Purge sanctioned by the U.S. Government.Weapons of class 4 and lower have been authorized for use during the Purge. All other weapons are restricted.Government officials of ranking 10 have been granted immunity from the Purge and shall not be harmed.Commencing at the siren, any and all crime, including murder, will be legal for 12 continuous hours.Police, fire, and emergency medical services will be unavailable until tomorrow morning at 7 a.m. when The Purge concludes.Blessed be our New Founding Fathers and America, a nation reborn.
The First Purge (2018): The first Purge, that is, the original 2013 film, wasn’t all that great. Yet each sequel has done the exact opposite of tradition by being better than the film that inspired it. 2016’s The Purge: Election Year ended the 12-hour evening of lawlessness, so where do you go from here? A prequel. Can it live up to where the series has gone over three films?
While this entry is written and produced by James DeMonaco, this is the first time he has not directed one of the films, handing those duties over to Gerard McMurray.
Ever wondered how The Purge came to be? Well, to push the crime rate below 1% for the rest of the year and restore the economy, the New Founding Fathers of America (NFFA) decided to test Dr. May Updale’s (Marisa Tomei, slumming it here John Cassavetes style) theory that a one night venting of aggression would do wonders for people’s state of mind.
However, the test doesn’t happen in the suburbs, but instead in the marginalized, low income, black and Latino neighborhood of Staten Island. Despite $5,000 being given to each Purger (you gotta spend money to make money, I guess) and more money offered for each kill, people decide that they wanna party more than they wanna kill. And that’s when the NFFA takes matters into its own hands, sending in mercenary death squads to get the job done.
Can protestor Nya and her brother Isaiah survive the night and the attention of the maniacal drug addict Skeletor (the best part of the film, as he owns the screen from the second he first appears)? Will drug lord Dmitri rise up and defend the neighborhood that he’s pillaged? Will white people wear Klan hoods and Nazi outfits and burn churches to the ground?
Do I even need to answer these questions?
That said — I was entertained by this movie, which is both simultaneously wish fulfillment and dire warning. It’s also so many movies in one, combining a slasher film with a running movie with a dystopian/post-apocalyptic film, then adding a side of gritty urban drama, a crime movie and finally, an action shoot ’em up. It works if you don’t think too much about how The Purge could ever become true. Actually, screw that. Over the past two years, I totally see how it could not only happen, but be endorsed by the American people.
This movie isn’t going to be escapism from the slowly darkening world outside the theater. It’s junk food, sugar-filled candy that conceals a center that we’re all finding harder and harder to swallow. If only the world’s problems were so easily solved within 12 hours that could unite us all by violence, which in these films, seems to solve everything. The real world is much messier, much more depressing and much more oppressive.
That said, if you want to see a Nazi in neon gleaming latex get shot with a rocket, it’s pretty much the best pick you’ll find this summer.
The. Forever Purge (2021): Directed by Everardo Gout and written by series creator James DeMonaco, this is yet another example of “the last Purge” before they announce another sequel. That said, this series has gone from middling to decent to actual pretty good to middling all over again, so I was happy that this pushes the Purge in a new direction: once the killing starts, it won’t stop. Sure, the series has gotten pretty heavy handed, but if the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that the Purge is closer than ever before.
These films always get laughed at for the way they handle social issues and then they make over $52.8 million worldwide over its $18 million budget.
Eight years after Charlene Roan’s presidential election — The Purge: Election Year — the New Founding Fathers of America have regained control of the U.S. government and have re-instituted the Purge. Racism has gotten out of control and this years Purge seems like it will cause more damage than anyone can imagine.
I mean, you can totally see how they tore this from the headlines. That’s kind of why I have a soft spot for these movies, which feel like the last gasp of the exploitation movies that we love that would stare a cynical eye on what was really happening and figure out how to make some money off of it.
Despite all of the film’s main characters surviving the Purge, the next day the killing continues thanks to a faction called the Forever Purgers, who have decided to turn the tables on the rich and show them what it feels like to be undervalued.
It’s easy to be snide and think these films are a waste of time, but for some reason, I’ve found something to enjoy in every film after the first one. I’m really looking forward to Frank Grillo’s character Leo Barnes coming back in the next film, as his journey between The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year made for a great story.
The Purge TV series: Lasting two seasons — the first takes place in 2027 and the second season between 2036 and 2037 — the first season was all about what goes into the Purge before it happens, seen from the perspective of several characters as an anthology series. Season two starts as an annual Purge night ends and multiple arcs show why different characters were involved and how the Purge changed their lives.
James DeMonaco was born in Brooklyn but spent eight years in Paris. When he came back to America, he “put a microscope” on his life after realizing the difference in the relationship our country has with guns. He stated, “I’m terrified for my country. So I think that cynicism seeps into the film. America itself becomes the canvas, instead of the haunted house, the canvas is America. We don’t need ghosts or vampires anymore when we’re just killing each other, you know?”
Then, a drunk driver nearly killed him and his wife and she said — she’s a doctor, mind you — “I wish we could all have one free murder a year.”
That’s how we got The Purge.
In 2014, the New Founding Fathers of America are voted into office, promising to fix the economic collapse. One of the ways that they do that is by passing a law sanctioning the Purge, an annual event where all crime is legal and emergency services are temporarily suspended.
Somehow, it works, because the news claims that the U.S. is crime-free and unemployment rates have dropped to 1%. However, that only works if you’re upper middle class and white, just one of the many ways that these movies — while a bit too on the nose — really reflect reality almost way too much.
The Purge (2013): Just like Sinister, the first movie in this series stars Ethan Hawke and really is there to lay the groundwork before the much more interesting sequel. Not that either movie is bad, but they create the world that the other film (or films) get to explore.
Hawke is architect James Sandin and his family — wife Mary (Lean Headey), son Charlie (Max Burkholder) and daughter Zoey (Adelaide Kane) — are aware that the Purge is coming but he’s invented a security system to protect them all. Well, it works until a stranger shows up injured and Zoey’s boyfriend Henry (Tony Oller) decides to bring a gun and confront James about their relationship.
What follows is a night of horror as the assembled neighbors, led by Grace Ferrin (Arija Bareikis), want the homeless man that asked for James’ help and to gain revenge against them as the Sandin’s wealth has come from all of them, as everyone needs the security system that he has invented to survive this night.
That mysterious man, known as the Stranger (Edwin Hodge), will become more important as the series continues. The budget for this was low and the idea of multiple Purges wouldn’t be possible, but DeMonaco said, “We only had 19 days to shoot and $2.7 million to work with.” And if he ever got the chance to do another, it would be like Escape from New York.
Good news. He got the chance.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014): Frank Grillo is the kind of actor that I love, someone who would be starring in Cannon movies if this was the 80s and instead is the lead in this movie as Leo Barnes, an LAPD Police Sergeant who wants to use Purge Night to avenge his son’s death, with the killer going free as the boy died on Purge Night.
Before the sixth Purge can begin, a resistance group led by Carmelo Johns (Michael K. Williams) and Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge), the Stranger from the first movie, hijack the American media to denounce the government and the fact that the Purge has reduced poor and non-white people to target practice.
The other storyline in this concerns waitress Eva Sanchez (Carmen Ejogo), her daughter Cali (Zoë Soul) and her terminally ill father Rico (John Beasley) who has sold himself to a rich family as someone to be hunted so that Eva and Cali can live in confront after his death.
There’s also Shane (Zach Gilford) and Liz (Kiele Sanchez), a couple ready to leave one another, who also are trapped in the inner city on the worst night of the year.
Complicating matters is that the Purge has not worked out how its creators thought: people wait to enact revenge based on personal grudges, killing friends and family instead of random poor people. The government has sent out death squads to up the body count and destroy the lower class.
The Purge: Election Year (2016): It’s kind of crazy how The Purge finally found its real footing three movies in, moving Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo) into a Secret Service hero protecting Senator Charlene Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a U.S. Senator running for President on an anti-Purge platform. She has a true belief in this, as her family was killed during the first Purge.
The New Founding Fathers of America use the Purge to try and kill Roan legally, as this year government officials have no immunity. This film also goes all in on just how close the NFFA is to right-wing religious zealots, even praying for death in church and having a sacrifice on an altar. Minister Edwidge Owens (Kyle Secor) is the other Presidential front runner and he’s been targeted by the underground led by Dante Bishop (Edwin Hodge).
Of all The Purge movies, this feels the most like something John Carpenter would make, as it feels like a non-stop chase and the good guys up against the wall for the entire running time. It expands the world of the film without forgetting the normal people caught up in the Purge, those truly battling for their lives and not just arguing about money and politics.
This is also the most violent in the series with 116 deaths, nearly one every single minute. It also shows that the rest of the world has begun to be part of the event with death tourism increasing along with the government sponsored death squads.
With the release of Prey, it’s time to break down all of the Predator movies in one place and try and figure out why I love this franchise so much when I outright hate at least one of these movies.
The inspiration for the film came from a joke that after Rocky IV, Stallone had run out of opponents on Earth. If they made another film, he’d have to fight an alien. Jim and John Thomas were inspired by that and wrote Hunter, which became Predator. One could argue that they had seen Without Warning, which is nearly the same idea, with an alien — armed with futuristic weaponry and also played by Kevin Peter Hall — on Earth to hunt humans.
Predator (1987): As Little Richard’s “Long Tall Sally” blares, helicopters carrying Dutch (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Poncho (Richard Chaves), Billy (Sonny Landham), Mac (Bill Duke), Hawkins (Shane Black), Blain (Jesse Ventura) and Dillon (Carl Weathers) lands in Central America to free a foreign cabinet minister and his aide.
On their way to the target, Dutch discovers a destroyed helicopter and three skinned bodies of a failed rescue attempt. After Dutch’s team decimates the enemy, including some Soviet officers, they learn that it was all a set-up by Dillon to get information from the enemy. Only one is left alive — Anna (Elpidia Carrillo) — so the team takes her to the extraction zone.
And this is where Predator flips the script.
Written by Jim and John Thomas (Mission to Mars, Executive Decision) and directed by John McTiernan (DieHard, Last Action Hero), this film starts as a testosterone-laced ode to American firepower and then becomes a slasher, as the team is followed by an invisible, nearly-unstoppable alien hunter (Kevin Peter Hall) who has come from space just for the sport of hunting these soldiers.
There are so many stories about how JCVD was once the Predator. Why that ended is up for debate. Maybe it’s because Van Damme was only 5’9″. Or it could have been because all Jean Claude did was complain about the suit being so hot that he kept passing out. Or maybe the original design just didn’t work. The Stan Winston redesign? It’s as iconic as the xenomorphs of Alien, which the Predator would get to battling soon enough.
Predator 2 (1989): The beauty of Predator is that it starts as a war movie and suddenly becomes a slasher before you even realize it. It subverts the macho tropes of Arnold movies by inserting a killing machine that is tougher, better armed and just plain unstoppable. And that killer? He’s just here for sport.
So why do I love Predator 2 so much? Because it’s literally a grindhouse or Italian exploitation version of Predator. Instead of the jungle, we get a literal concrete jungle. Instead of Arnold, Jesse and Carl Weathers, we get character actors galore, like Danny Glover, Robert Davi, Gary Busey and Bill Paxton. It has the feel of RoboCop with a non-stop media barrage led by real-life junk TV icon Morton Downey, Jr. (“Zip it, pinhead!”), and a populace that is constantly armed and always looking for a chance to use it. It’s one of the few slices of the future where it feels like today — the technology is only nominally better and everything pretty much sucks for everyone. And holy shit, is it fucking hot.
The 1997 of this movie is really 2018, to be honest. Except LA is in the midst of a war between the Colombian and Jamaican drug cartels. It’s a perfect place for a Predator to hunt — and once that alien sees Lt. Harrigan (Glover) in action, it seems like it’s playing a game to capture the lawman as his ultimate prize. That’s when we meet Special Agent Peter Keyes (Busey), who is posing as a DEA agent, and new team member Detective Jerry Lambert (Paxton at his most manic).
There’s a scene where the Predator interrupts a voodoo ritual (the girlfriend screaming for her life is former Playboy Playmate turned porn star (that was a rare thing in the 1990s) Teri Weigel) and wipes out everyone, skinning them alive and taking pieces of them as trophies. One of the team, Danny (singer Rubén Blades) comes back to the crime scene, only to be killed by the camouflaged alien.
Harrigan starts tracking the killer, thinking he’s dealing with a human. He even consults King Willie (Calvin Lockhart, The Beast Must Die), the voodoo loving gang leader. That’s when we get that immortal line that Ice Cube sampled, “There’s no stopping what can’t be stopped. No killing what can’t be killed.” A short battle follows with an awesome two cut (literally) of Willie screaming and his severed head being carried away, continuing the scream.
Two massive action scenes follow: Lambert and team member Cantrell (María Conchita Alonso) battling a gang and the Predator on a train, then Keyes and his team battling the Predator in what they think is the perfect situation.
It comes down to Harrigan and the Predator battling one on one, from rooftop to buildings to a spacecraft. Harrigan overcomes the alien with its own weapons, then an army of other Predators appear (this made me stand up and cheer when I saw this 27 years ago in the theater) and one of them hands the cop an ancient gun as a trophy before they leave him behind. That gun is engraved “Raphael Adolini 1715,” a reference to the Dark Horse comic book story Predator: 1718, which was published in A Decade of Dark Horse #1.
To be honest — a TON of this film is taken from Dark Horse’s Predator: Concrete Jungle. The first few issues feature Detective Schaefer, the brother of Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer, as he and his partner, Detective Rasche, fight a Predator in New York City. And the inclusion of the Alien skull was inspired by Dark Horse’s Aliens vs. Predator series.
I love that Lilyan Chauvin is in this as Dr. Irene Richards, the chief medical examiner and forensic pathologist of Los Angeles. How woke is Predator 2? The main cop is African American leading an ethnically diverse team when that diversity isn’t an issue at all? Then you have a woman in charge of all pathology? How ahead of its time is this movie?
Adam Baldwin from TV’s Firefly has a brief role as a member of Keyes’ team. Plus, Robert Davi plays a police captain, Kent McCord from TV’s Adam-12 is a cop, Steve Kahan (who played Glover’s boss in four Lethal Weapon films) plays a police sergeant and Elpidia Carrillo reprises her role as Anna Gonsalves from the original in a cameo.
If you read the book version, you learn even more: Keyes recalls memories of speaking with Dutch in a hospital, as he suffered from radiation sickness. However, the soldier escaped, never to be seen again. Arnold himself escaped, refusing to do this movie because of the script, and he was nearly replaced by Steven Seagal and Patrick Swayze!
Director Stephen Hopkins went on to direct The Reaping, Lost in Space, The Ghost and the Darkness and Judgement Night (he also directed A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Childbefore this). He had to recut the film twenty times to get an R rating! I’d love to see the uncut version of this. Shout Factory, how about it?
One of my favorite things about the film is this outtake. Stick through it to see Danny Glover dance along with some Predators!
Also: Holy shit, Gary Busey. He is in character the entire time, discussing how they’re hunting the Predator while also talking about it as a film. If this doesn’t make you love him, nothing will.
Predators (2010): Produced by Robert Rodriguez (who also came up with the story) and directed by Nimród E. Antal, this is the forgotten film of the Predator franchise. Its title relates to Aliens and it also describes the humans who have come to this alien planet.
Royce (Adrien Brody, cast against type here but awesome in his role; he has even offered to return in sequels) is a mercenary who awakens as he parachutes into an unfamiliar jungle. It’s a great sequence that sets up the non-stop chase that makes up the movie. Soon, he meets other predators: Mexican gang member Cuchillo (Danny Trejo), Spetsnaz Russian soldier Nikolai (UFC fight Oleg Taktarov, who was happy to play a rare positive Russian character in an American film), Israeli sniper Isabelle (Alice Braga, The Rite), RUF soldier Mombasa (Mahershala Ali, Moonlight), Yakuza gang member Hanzo, San Quentin death row inmate Stan (Walton Goggins, House of 1000 Corpses) and a doctor named Edwin (Topher Grace fromTV’s That 70’s Show), who doesn’t seem to fit. They finally make their way through the jungle to a clearing where they stare up at multiple planets. It’s a jarring scene that reminds us that we are far away from Earth.
It turns out that this planet is a game preserve where the Predators gather game to be hunted. Soon, Cuchillo is killed and used as a trap. Then, they find a captive Predator and three larger hunters, known as the Tracker, Berserker and Falconer. Mombasa is killed and Royce demands to know why Isabelle knew who the aliens were. That’s because she knew Dutch from the original movie and heard his story.
They then meet Noland (Laurence Fishburne), a soldier who has survived for ten seasons. Even though he explains the rules to them, he tries to kill them for their supplies. As they escape, Royce hatches a plan to exploit the feud between the smaller and larger Predators.
As he tries to escape the fire, the Tracker kills Noland but is taken out by Nikolai’s mines as he sacrifices himself to help the party. Similarly, Stan saves everyone by facing off with the Berserker, but his skull and spine are ripped out. Hanzo is the last to put himself before the group as he and the Falconer duel, with both dying from their wounds.
Royce, Isabelle and Edwin make their way to the camp, but Edwin is injured and Isabelle won’t leave him behind. Royce then frees the smaller Predator and they set the ship’s course for Earth. Unfortunately, the Berserker returns, kills his rival and blows the ship up. It’s revealed why Edwin is there: he was a killer and uses poison he found on the planet to paralyze Isabelle. Royce arrives in the nick of time and saves her.
Our heroes cover Edwin with grenades and then Royce battles the Predator one on one, killing it with an axe just as more parachutes come down from the sky. Soon, more Predators will come, but they will be ready.
I really enjoyed this film, both in the theater and then revisiting it a few weeks ago on blu-ray. It deserves to have more people watch it.
The Predator (2018): When it comes to a reboot of the franchise, I wanted it to be something amazing. Yet I heard so many bad reviews of this movie — directed and written by original writer Shane Black with help from Fred Dekker — that I avoided it until it came out on DVD.
The truth is, it’s fine. But for a Predator movie, it better be way better than fine. It’s a movie that has trouble trying to figure out if it’s a buddy comedy, an alien movie or an action film. The original film went up against those odds and knew when to subtly go from a testosterone-fueled epic to a horror movie. This one doesn’t manage that quite as well.
It all starts with a Predator ship crashes on the Earth in the middle of Army Ranger sniper Quinn McKenna’s (Boyd Holbrook) team’s hostage rescue mission. You know how snipers work in the field in the middle of hostage rescue instead of being off on their own taking out targets. That isn’t the only military error here — Nettles discusses flying Hueys when the Army discontinued their usage in 1984 and switched to the UH-60 Blackhawk.
But anyways, McKenna hurts the Predator long enough to send its armor to his PO Box so that he has proof of alien existence when he’s taken by government agent Will Traeger (Sterling K. Brown) and sent to military prison.
Meanwhile, evolutionary biologist Casey Bracket (Olivia Munn) has been recruited to study the Predator alongside Sean Keyes, the son of Peter Keyes (Jake Busey, whose dad Gary played Peter in Predator 2). The alien wakes up and wipes out the lab, except for Casey who finds the bus full of military prisoners and escapes.
Those escapees include former Marines Gaylord “Nebraska” Williams (Trevante Rhodes, Moonlight), Coyle (the always welcome Keegan-Michael Key), Lynch (Alfie Allen, brother of Lily), Baxley (Thomas Jane, this character was named for the stunt coordinator of the first movie and whose Tourette’s was as a tribute to Black’s wife) and Nettles. They go to find McKenna’s ex-wife Emily (Yvonne Strahovski from TV’s Chuck) and son Rory (Jacob Tremblay, who was amazing in Room), an autistic child who found the package and has already used to blow up a house on Halloween.
When they arrive, the Predator’s dogs ambush them. Just when they are about to give the alien his armor back, a larger Predator arrives to kill the first and lets them go. Soon, however, it realizes that the stolen alien equipment it seeks is with the military men.
Because no one can leave well enough alone, it turns out that the Predators are taking DNA from different planets and using it to make themselves better, faster, stronger and more like the Hulk. This goes against the theme of the Predators looking for sport in their hunt, which is presumably why the first Predator was here to give something to humans.
The big green Predator kills just about everyone other than Quinn, his son and Dr. Casey before they figure out how to take him out. In the end, Rory is helping the government translate the Predator’s language and it turns out that the equipment is a suit of armor that can kill Predators.
There were two different reshoots of the film, with the entire third act being reshot after test screenings hated the original finale. Black wanted there to be two versions of the home release — Predator AM and Predator PM, as the film’s original ending was during the day — but the studio didn’t want to pay to complete the special effects.
The original ending had the military prisoners and the army teaming up with even more good Predators to fight the upgraded Predator and other hybrids, which the fugitive was trying to steal and keep from the upgraded Predators. Edward James Olmos was a general in these scenes, as are plenty of moments in the trailers, which were all cut. Supposedly this third act was too talky, but cutting it out resulted in plenty of holes in the story and continuity errors.
Sadly, the original script ended with Quinn, Casey and Rory healing after defeating the upgraded Predator when a helicopter lands. Dutch, played by Arnold himself, would step out and say, “Come with me.” Sadly, Arnold read the script and turned it down.
Behind the scenes, this wasn’t without controversy. Director Shane Black hired his longtime friend, Steven Wilder Striegel for a minor role, despite Wilder being a registered sex offender since he pled guilty into trying to lure a 14-year-old girl into having sex over email. A few days before the film was finally edited, Olivia Munn learned of this and asked that he be removed from the film. At first, Black defended his actions until the backlash forced him to go back on his arguments. Of the actors in the film, only Sterling K. Brown initially stood with Munn.
The other issue is that there’s a thesis in the film that kids with Asperger’s and autism are actually the next level of evolution, which would be nice if it had any science behind it. I’m certain that the parents of these children may not agree with this story.
I wanted to enjoy this movie. I did, but throughout, it felt like a failed opportunity for one of my favorite film series to be essential. Instead, it’s a throwaway that I won’t remember for long. And that’s pretty sad.
Alien vs. Predator (2004): The first Alien vs. Predator story by Randy Stradley and Chris Warner appeared in Dark Horse Presents #34–36 a year before Predator 2 revealed that Xenomorph skull as one of the Predator’s trophies.
Directed and written by Paul W. S. Anderson, he used Erich von Däniken’s Ancient Astronaut theories, as the Predators taught Mayans how to build pyramids and used sacrificed humans to incubate Xenomorphs which they would hunt every hundred years, until one battle ended badly and the Predators nuked the area with one of their self-destruct devices.
The other big idea here is that Lance Henriksen plays Charles Bishop Weyland, the CEO of Weyland Industries which will one day become the Weyland-Yutani Corporation. He’s leading a team to Antarctica to find another pyramid. As he’s terminally ill, he wants something to be remembered by. Guided by Lex Woods (Sanaa Lathan), he leads his team directly into a trap filled with facehuggers and a sleeping queen (this movie has a lot of ties to Lovecraft along with its Alien and Predator mythology).
Three Predators known as Scar, Celtic and Chopper show up to hunt. Now, you may wonder, why do they come to such a cold place when they’re attracted to heat? Because this is their big test as hunters, to go outside of their natural hunting areas. After deaths on both sides, Lex and Scar bond — he even burns a Predator mark into her face, echoing a scene in the Dark Horse comics — and she alone survives. His body is taken by the Predators, who gift her with one of their weapons, before his in-state body gives birth to an Alien and Predator hybrid.
While I’d never say this is my favorite film in either franchise, if you approach it as just fun, it’s fine. You want it to be better, but it never gets to the mania of the comics or video game. Then again, Anderson was only given two and a half months to film this while post-production was given just four months.
This movie caused James Cameron to stop working on an Alien movie, “To me, that was Frankenstein Meets Werewolf. It was Universal just taking their assets and starting to play them off against each other…Milking it.” But after watching it, he said, “it was actually pretty good. I think of the five Alien films, I’d rate it third. I actually liked it. I actually liked it a lot.”
Ridley Scott said it was “a daft idea” that brought down the franchise.
Alien vs. Predator: Requiem (2010): Immediately after the end of the last movie, the Predator crashes into a forest outside of Gunnison, Colorado. The Alien Predator hybrid — let’s call it the Predalien escapes and attacks everyone in its way. An older veteran Predator named Wolf arrives, ready to erase the evidence and stop what could be the ultimate killing machine.
Beyond getting to see Françoise Yip play Ms. Yutani, the CEO of the Yutani Corporation, this movie has the PredAlien impregnating homeless people and already pregnant women to make an army of Xenomorphs to take over the town.
Directed by Greg and Colin Strause (Skyline) and written by Shane Salerno (Armageddon), this movie really feels like a collection of video game cut sequences instead of an actual film and ends like Return of the Living Dead, which is probably making Dan O’Bannon laugh in whatever reality he’s in now.
Speaking of horror royalty, this movie had Daniel Pearl as its director of photography. That said, critics hated the dark lighting and handheld camerawork he used, as he didn’t like how the first movie was so bright and showed so much of the creatures.
There was a lot of the movie that ended up being reshot, like Ricky impaled and ripped in half by the Predalien inside the hospital — instead of just being wounded — and the entire team of survivors getting nuked. There was an even rougher ending where Special Forces tracked them all down and killed them so there were no witnesses.
An ending that was not filmed had Ms Yutani taking the Predator gun and it transforming into a Weyland-Yutani logo on a spaceship that flies to a planet where Predators are hunting a gigantic winged dinosaur-like Alien, but no one was all that excited — probably other than me, even after this movie — for a third fight between the Yautja and the Xenomorphs.
While he was making Piranha II: The Spawning, James Cameron was sick and had one of those weird dreams — this one was about a metal torso holding knives dragging itself from an explosion — and was inspired to make a horror movie. His agent didn’t like that genre. Cameron fired that agent.
Gale Anne Hurd, who had worked at New World Pictures as Roger Corman’s assistant, bought the rights to produce the movie for one dollar with the promise that she would produce it only if Cameron was to direct it.
The money came from John Daly, chairman and president of Hemdale Film Corporation, and the presentation had Lance Henriksen in a leather jacket with wounds on his face kicking open the door for Cameron.
As for where the idea really came from, well…
Writer Harlan Ellison “loved the movie, was just blown away by it,” but that was because it was a cocktail of two of his stories, “Soldier” and “Demon With a Glass Hand.” Orion Pictures, who put out the movie, settled with Ellison for an undisclosed amount of money and an acknowledgment credit in later prints of the film. Cameron was against Orion’s decision, yet he was told that if he did not agree with the settlement, he would have to pay any damages if Orion lost the lawsuit.
Regardless of where the movie came from, it was an instant hit.
The Terminator (1984): This movie made $78.3 million against a modest $6.4 million budget. It also made both director Cameron and star Schwarzenegger as entertainment superstars.
The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) has come to our time hunting a woman named Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), while Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) has come back as well to ensure that she gives birth to man’s last hope, her son John.
That sounds like such a simple story but this is the very definition of well-told, as Cameron obsessed over the movie, delivering what could be one of the most perfect science fiction movies ever made. The scene while Arnold’s face is torn away to reveal the metal skull underneath is sheer movie magic thanks to the skill of Stan Winston and the mind of Cameron, whose sketch after his dream was used to bring the T-800 to cinematic existence.
Cameron and Herd’s experience working for Corman came in handy, as the final scene of Sarah driving away was shot without a permit. They told a cop that tried to ticket them that they were making a student film for UCLA.
T2: Judgment Day (1991): How do you think anyone making action movies felt after seeing this movie? Truly, nearly everything had been done by the end of it, a film that not only had tons of incredible stuntwork and special effects, but also a true heart behind it.
I often tell the story of my grandfather, who I saw get caught inside a burning car and not even flinch when all of the skin on his back was burned, who worked day and night inside a blast furnace, who rarely got emotional breaking down into tears at the end of this movie, making all of us leave the room so he could cry all by himself when Arnold’s T-800 melted itself down.
At more than one hundred million dollars, this was the most expensive movie ever made at the time, but it brought back five times that investment, owning the summer of 1991.
That budget was big before the movie ever started.
Back when James Cameron just wanted to get The Terminator made, he’d surrendered 50% of his rights to the film to the Hemdale Film Corporation. Things had not gone well, as Hemdale co-founder John Daly had attempted to change the ending of that movie and Cameron almost physically assaulted him. Also by 1990, Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gale-Anne Hurd and special-effects artist Stan Winston were all suing Hemdale for money they never saw for a movie that made nearly ten times its budget.
Complicating matters further was the fact that Cameron and Hurd had gotten divorced, with him selling the other half of the movie that he owned to her for $1 following their split.
Hemdale was experiencing financial difficulties and would eventually be forced to sell the rights to The Terminator, so Arnold worked with Carolco Pictures to purchase the rights. One of Carolco’s owners, Mario Kassar, said that the deal was the most he’d ever conducted, as Daly wanted $10 million for the rights, a number he believed was made up just to scare off anyone who wanted to buy it. Hurd was much easier to deal with, only requiring $5 million, but before filming had even begun, they were already in double digits of millions of dollars spent.
Kassar explained to Cameron that to make back this investment, the film would proceed with or without him; Cameron took $6million to be involved and write the script. Caroloco nearly followed the Cannon model of pre-selling this movie as well as using tax breaks to make it happen.
After writing the script, Arnold didn’t understand why the T-800 had become good or why he’d stop killing humans. But he trusted Cameron and just had one request: “Just make me cool.”
As for the new enemy, the T-1000, it would be a mix of digital art and the physicality of Robert Patrick, who was a sleek predator compared to the bull in a China shop that was Arnold. And of course, Linda Hamilton would have to return as Sarah. She put herself through what she described as hell physically preparing for the role, as her character had been off the grid preparing for the end of the world. She summed up the movie’s emotional hook so well: “The T-800 is a better human than I am, and I’m a better Terminator than he is.”
In fact, that’s the most important lesson in this. If a machine can learn to value life, so can human beings. I’ve often thought of the mantra that film imparts at the end, “no fate but what we make” and its rejection of predestination for the truth of free will. That’s a big concept to include within a summer blockbuster, but hey, there it is.
Sadly, Caroloco would not survive the success of this movie. They finished 1991 with a net loss of $265.1 million, which was caused by the financial problems of its other films and subsidiaries. Four years later, they would file for bankruptcy and sell all of the assets, including this film, to Canal Plus for $58 million dollars.
Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (2003): James Cameron was interested in directing this movie, but ultimately didn’t work on it. Sadly, he had some ideas while making Terminator 2 3-D: Battle Across Time, seeing that theme park experience as the next step toward a third fim.
He no longer had any financia stake, as Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar, who had produced Terminator 2: Judgment Day through Carolco Pictures, obtained the rights for the franchise as a result of Carolco’s liquidation auction and negotiations with producer Gale Ann Hurd. Yes, somehow they made money on the bankuptcy of Kassar’s company.
Director Jonathan Mostow made Breakdown and U-571 before this. Talk about an unenviable position, following James Cameron on a franchise that was universally loved.
Writers John Brancato and Michael Ferris met while at college, where both were editors of The Harvard Lampoon. Until their professional relationsip ended in 2015, they made plenty of movies, from small budget films like The Unborn, Severed Ties and Mindwarp (all made with the fake name Henry Dominic) to Femme Fatale, The Net, The Game and, well, Catwoman.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was conflicted about doing the movie without Cameron. However, the director told him, “If they can come up with a good script and they pay you a lot of money, don’t think twice.” The script part is questionable, but Arnold made $30 million off this movie.
Nick Stahl replaced Edward Furlong as John Connor, Sarah was now dead and he was constantly on the run from Skynet, which now sent the T-X (Kristanna Loken), its most advanced machine ever, to kill all of Connor’s future soldiers back in the past.
Claire Danes plays Kate Brewster, who is destined to be the wife of John in the future, but now, her military father Lieutenant General Robert Brewster (David Andrews) has acquired all of Cyberdyne Systems’ remaining assets, so the future that was stopped in the last film can still happen, as of course the military boots up SkyNet, which wastes no time at all starting Judgement Day.
If T2 was never made, this movie would be much better considered. It’s up against an absolute classic, so if you can enjoy it on its own merits, then it’s not a bad movie.
Terminator: Salvation (2009): In addition to Terminator 3, producers Andrew G. Vajna and Mario Kassar were already developing Terminator 4, which would finally be about the war between Skynet and humanity. Nick Stahl and Claire Danes were to return as John Connor and Kate Brewster, as director Jonathan Mostow was already on board.
But by 2007, that obviously wasn’t happening. And by this point, Caroloco was falling apart and Vajna and Kassar were no longer speaking. Entertainment Weekly interviewed Vajna, who said “After Rambo, we were trying to become a major studio. I felt that was the wrong direction,” Vajna told Entertainment Weekly. “After Rambo, we were trying to become a major studio. I felt that was the wrong direction. My feelings were very negative and it caused a lot of friction between Mario, myself and Peter Hoffman, who was by then Mario’s right hand. I disagreed with where they wanted to go and Peter played our egos against each other. He wanted to be a partner.” Vajna was paid approximately $100 million for his share in the company and within a few years, Hoffman and Kassar were at odds over how much money Kassar gambled on movies and how much he gave to his actors, like the $17 million dollar jet that was given to Schwarzenegger.
The Halcyon Company bought the intellectual property of Terminator and that’s when more lawsuits happened, as they went nearly bankrupt thanks to funding from the Pacificor hedge fund as well as a lawsuit between MGM and Halcyon subsidiary T Asset, as MGM had an exclusive window of 30 days to negotiate for distribution of the Terminator films and Halcyon turned down their original offer. At the end of the day — in court — Warner Bros. paid $60 million to distribute the movie and Sony threw in over $100 million to acquire the international rights.
There was another lawsuit after the movie played theaters, as producer Moritz Borman — who arranged the rights of Terminator going to Halycon — sued the company for $160 million, claiming that the company’s two managers, Derek Anderson and Victor Kubicek, had pushed their way into taking over the production and even worse, wouldn’t pay his $2.5 million share of the production.
The script may have been even messier, as Brancato and Ferris wrote the initial draft, which was rewritten by Paul Haggis, then rewritten again by Shawn Ryan three weeks before filming started. Until a writer’s strike, Jonathan Nolan was doing rewrites on set, as did Anthony E. Zuiker. The script changed so much that Alan Dean Foster rewrote the entire novelization after submitting it to his publisher after he saw the shooting script and realized that there was no way his book would match.
That said, McG was always the director. He went so far as to meet with James Cameron, who didn’t bless or damn the project, but told McG that he was in the same shoes that he had been in once when he made Aliens.
Death row inmate Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) was used by Cyberdyne as part of a trial to create living tissue for their robots, just as Judgement Day begins — moved from August 29, 1997 to July 25, 2003.
15 years later, John Connor (Christian Bale) learns that Skynet is trying to erase Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin) before he can go back in time to become his father. He soon meets Marcus, who he believes is a Terminator sent to kill him until Marcus saves his life. Together, they will enter Skynet’s headquarters and rescue the captured Kyle.
Of course, Skynet’s plan was to use Marcus to get John into their base but as we’ve learned by now, fate is up to the individual. This was one of the first movies that were altered when the script leaked online. In that version, John would have been killed and his skin put onto Marcus’ body before he killed the entire cast. Talk about a dark fate, huh?
There’s an R-rated cut of this that is supposedly way better than what was in theaters. I’d love to see it.
Terminator: Savation was also the film where Bale flipped out on director of photography Shane Hurlbut for walking onto the set during a scene. I don’t take that as diva behavior; I love a celebrity meltdown.
Terminator: Genisys (2015): Directed by Alan Taylor (Thor: The Dark World) and written by Kaeta Kalogridis and Patrick Lussier, this film came so much later because The Halcyon Company faced legal issues and filed for bankruptcy, leading to Annapurna Pictures getting the franchise rights. And while they consulted James Cameron, nobody seems happy with this movie.
Amongst all the multiple timelines of the series, a Skynet of one universe that has already been defeated in several timelines gets smart and sends the T-5000 to defeat the humans by taking their best weapon: John Connor.
Now, Emilia Clarke is Sarah Connor, Jai Courtney is the time-displaced Kyle Reese, Arnold is “Pops,” a T-800 and Jason Clarke is John Connor, now a T-3000 after being attacked by the T-5000 as he traveled through time.
As for how Skynet gets launched, it’s through an Apple-like cell phone network known as Genisys. Yes, you thought your phone listening to you and giving you advertising was bad. Just imagine when it wants to kill you.
Set across seven different time periods this movie seems like it wants to confuse its audience, one that may have enjoyed the time travel in the original movie but really just like the simplicty of an unkillable soldier trying to wipe out a future enemy in the past.
Clarke was happy that there were no sequels, saying of the director Alan Taylor, “He was eaten and chewed up on Terminator. He was not the director I remembered. He didn’t have a good time. No one had a good time.” The double pain of doing this and a Thor movie no one liked led to Tayor saying that he “lost the will to make movies and to live as a director.”
Terminator: Dark Fate (2019): James Cameron came back to write the story of this film and produce it, but would anyone care after the numerous stumbles in the story of Terminator?
With a total of five writers — Cameron, Charles Eglee, Josh Friedman, David Goyer, Justin Rhodes — and Tim Miller following up Deadpool, it seemed like a can’t miss movie. So why does hardly anyone discuss it just three years later?
Even though this made $261.1 million at the box office, this movie still lost $122.6 million, making it one of the biggest box-office bombs of all time. Maybe audiences didn’t want to see Terminator 2 invalidated by a film that begins with John Connor being killed by a T-800, not after all we’d loved in that first film.
In the years after John’s death, Sarah (Linda Hamilton, returning to basically be the star of this movie) was given advanced warning of any Terminators as well as how to destroy Skynet, which never went live. Instead, another AI named Legion has come to the same conclusion that Skynet would have. Humans tried to nuke it, but that just ended up creating an unlivable world and now the future has sent a cybernetic soldier named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) to protect another future leader named Dani (Natalia Reyes) from Rev-9 (Gabriel Luna).
The messages that Sarah has been receiving come from Carl (Arnold Schwarzenegger), the T-800 who murdered her son and has spent the time since trying to atone for its sins while starting a human family and a drapery business. Yes, the Terminator puts in blinds and curtains.
Cameron offered tons of suggestions throughout the edit and because of this — and the lack of final edit and control — Miller said he would likely not work with Cameron again. He also said, “Terminator’s an interesting movie to explore, but maybe we’ve explored it enough. I went in with the rock hard nerd belief that if I made a good movie that I wanted to see, it would do well. And I was wrong.” He also said that the goal was to never make a better movie than Terminator 2, but if that’s the goal, why even make the movie?
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles: Lasting 31 episodes and 2 seasons, this Fox series ignored Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and instead takes place after Terminator 2: Judgment Day.
Sarah (Lena Headey), John (Thomas Dekker) and female Terminator Cameron (Summer Glau), spend the series being chased by a T-888 Terminator named Cromartie (Garret Dillahunt) and FBI agent James Ellison (Richard T. Jones) who believes that Sarah is a criminal.
Over the course of the series, they would learn that Skynet had sent numerous Terminators back in time, including a T-1000 who uses the human name Catherine Weaver and is played by Garbage singer Shirley Manson.
Unfortunately, Fox was unhappy with the ratings, despite the show being critically acclaimed and fans writing in to try and save it. Creator Josh Friedman refuses to share what would have happened next.
T2-3D: Battle Across Time (2001): James Cameron made one other sequel to Terminator and it could only be seen at three places: Universal Studios Japan, Hollywood and Orlando. Presented in two parts, it starts as a tour of Cyberdyne Systems before a 3D film allows riders to interact with T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger), Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), John Connor (Edward Furlong) and T-1000 (Robert Patrick). There’s even the T-1000000, a giant liquid-metal spider that attacks the heroes.
The project was created by Gary Goddard (Masters of the Universe) and Landmark Entertainment. Universal wanted a stunt show, but Goddard thought that 3D theater show would be even more exciting. After a year-and-a-half of development, James Cameron’s Lightstorm Entertainment was approached for approval and while Cameron was originally against the idea of turning the movie series into a ride, he loved the storyboards and concept. He would come on board to actually direct the battle between the Connors and T-800 against the T-70s, T-1000 and T-1000000.
Lady Terminator(1988): If you’re bored with all these machines and time travel, this Indonesian remix, ripoff and remake presents some of the same scenes from the original James Cameron effort but with a decidedly more occult — and way lower budget — feel. It’s also scummy as it gets, with its female killing machine literally removing men’s members through her murdering lady parts.
Shocking Dark (1989): Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso and Rossella Drudi somehow were able to not only steal from Aliens, but also Terminator to create this movie which was sold as Terminator 2. Robert Patrick does not look pleased.
The Terminators (2009): The Asylum are the masters of “We have Terminator already at home.” I haven’t seen this but now I feel as if I have to.
It’d take a whole other article to get into all of the pop culture that Terminator created, but I just want to tease that by reminding you that at one point, we got a RoboCop vs. Terminator comic book and video game. Come on, Hollywood. Give us the real thing.
Sometimes, having OCD and ADD and who knows what else leads me down some strange paths. This time, it was to go all-in on Lake Placid. A note: The Lake Placid vs. Anaconda movie and Lake Placid: Legacy will be covered soon enough.
Lake Placid (1999): Not many eco-horror movies have the pedigree of Steve Miner directing and David E. Kelly writing them. Maybe it’s just that I’ve watched so many cable sequels and low budget cash-ins this week, but man — this is an actual movie! This line will make more sense by the time this article is done, as man did these movies take a dive when it comes to quality.
A SCUBA diving death in Aroostook County, Maine leads to an entire team investigating the cause. Sheriff Hank Keough (Brendan Gleason), wildlife officer Jack Wells (Bill Pullman), American Museum of Natural History paleontologist Kelly Scott (Bridget Fonda) and mythology professor Hector Cyr (Oliver Platt) soon discover that there’s a giant crocodile in the lakes, fed by kindly old Mrs. Delores Bickerman (Betty White).
The Stan Winston-created gator looks great, a moose head is gorily removed from the lake and White’s character is fun. There are also several references to Alligator, which I endorse because it’s the best of all croc or gator on the loose movies.
Lake Placid 2 (2007): Sheriff James Riley is now on the case of the gators and if you know your made for SyFy movies, you know that he has to be played by one-time Duke of Hazzard John Schneider. Instead of Betty White feeding gators, you get her sister Sadie, played by Cloris Leachman (they were both on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, so at least the casting has some meta quality). Instead of Steve Miner and David E. Kelly, we have David Flores directing and Howie Miller and Todd Hurvitz writing.
It is, as they say, a major step backward.
I was going to ask where a cop would get a grenade launcher and then I remembered that in my hometown of 7,436 people the police all have AR15s, ballistic armor and a battle armored SWAT vehicle. So this isn’t all that far-fetched, I guess.
In case you wondered, yes, a small dog is menaced by the gator.
Lake Placid 3 (2010): Sadie Bickerman has died and left her home to her nephew Nathan (Colin Ferguson from Eureka), who plans on fixing it up with his wife Susan (Yancy Butler) and their son Connor, who inherits the Bickerman family trait of feeding gators and making them into human masticating killing machines.
In this movie, an entire family of gators bites down on peeping toms and skinny dippers, keeping the cable movie from showing too much gore or too much skin. It also has a literal home invasion via crocodile years before Crawl.
Director Griff Furst — Stephen’s son — has been in nearly ninety movies and also directed Swamp Shark, Alligator Alley and Trailer Park Shark. Writer David Reed is now a writer and a producer of The Boys.
The end of this movie directly ties into the fourth movie.
Lake Placid: The Final Chapter (2010): David E. Kelly, which wrote the original Lake Placid, gave this movie 4.5 out of 5 stars and said, “Is this the last one really? The ending doesn’t make me think so. I am glad to see Robert Englund in this and some of the cast from the previous movie! The effects are still lame as second and third, but the story is good.”
David Reed was back as the writer and sequel king Don Michael Paul (Kindergarten Cop 2, Jarhead 2: Field of Fire, Sniper: Legacy, Tremors 5: Bloodlines, Sniper: Ghost Shooter, Tremors: A Cold Day in Hell, Death Race: Beyond Anarchy, The Scorpion King: Book of Souls, Jarhead: Law of Return, Bulletproof 2 and Tremors: Shrieker Island) was new to the series, making what was claimed to be the last film in the series. Come on, people.
After the events of Lake Placid 3, Reba (Yancy Butler) is still alive and she starts this off by killing the last remaining crocodile in the supermarket. Now an EPA agent, she returns to Black Lake a year later to work with sheriff Theresa Giove (Elisabeth Röhm). And in every Lake Placid there must be a Bickerman and this time it’s Jimmy, played by Robert Englund.
Butler is pretty great in this, the crocodile is somehow twenty feet long and a whole bus full of kids gets menaced.
There’s an opportunity to make the Lake Placid movies high trash, yet no one ever seems to go for it. You know there will be more, so that’s my challenge to croc creatives: go wild.
With The Cannon Canon celebrating Bronson Don’t Like May(onnaise) this month, I decided to watch some Bronson and bring back several of his films. Seeing as how I’ve done an entire Death Wish week before, why not just put them all in one review for easy reading?
Death Wish (1974): New York City in 1974 must have felt like the end of the world. Based on the 1972 novel by Brian Garfield, Death Wish was the answer. In fact, in many theaters, the audience stood up and cheered as Paul Kersey got his bloody revenge for the crims visited upon him and his family.
The film we’re about to discuss went through many twists and turns as it made its way to the screen. Originally, it ended with the vigilante hero confronting the thugs who attacked his family and them killing him, police detective Ochoa discovering his weapon and deciding to follow in his footsteps. And get this — the first choice to play the lead was Jack Lemmon, with Henry Fonda as Ochoa and Sidney Lumet directing.
Finally, United Artists picked the gritty action veteran Michael Winner to direct. Several studios rejected the film due to its subject matter and the difficulty of casting the lead. Winner wanted Bronson, who he’d worked with in the past, but the actor’s agent hated the message of the film and Bronson felt that the book was about a weak man, someone he would not be playing on film.
Death Wish turned Bronson, who was 53 at the time of its release, into a major star known worldwide. It’s a movie made exactly for its time. Despite its lurid subject matter and dangerous acceptance of its hero’s actions, it’s still a great exploitation film that actually explores the why behind its hero’s actions instead of just setting him loose upon people.
Paul Kersey (Bronson) starts the movie in Hawaii with his wife Joanna. When they return home to the squalid streets of New York City, it’s only days before three thugs — including Jeff Goldblum! — invade their apartment, raping their daughter Carol and bearing Joanna so badly that she dies. Beyond Goldblum in this early role, keep an eye open for Christopher Guest and Olympia Dukakis as cops, as well as Sonia Manzano (Maria from Sesame Street, who was dating director Winner at the time and suggested that Herbie Hancock do the score) and Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs (Freddie “Boom Boom” Washington from TV’s Welcome Back, Kotter) in supporting roles.
As he recovers from his wife’s death, Paul is mugged. He fights back and chases off his attacker and finds new strength from the battle. An architect by trade, Paul heads to Tucson where he helps Ames Jainchill with his residential development project. After work one night, he goes to a gun club with Ames, where we learn how good of a shot Paul is. Turns out he was a conscientious objector and combat medic who was taught marksmanship by his father, but promised his mother he’d never pick up another gun after his dad was killed in a hunting accident. On the way back home, Paul discovers that Ames has given him a gun as a gift.
Now back home, Paul learns from his son-in-law that his daughter is still catatonic and would be better off in a mental hospital. That night, when walking, Paul is mugged again but he has the gun with him. He fights back and kills the mugger, but even that action causes him to grow physically sick. But soon, he’s prowling the mean streets and looking for a fight.
Before long, NYPD detective Lt. Frank Ochoa (Vincent Gardenia) begins investigating the vigilante killings and quickly narrows down his suspect list to Paul. As the manhunt gets closer and closer, Paul finally is caught after passing out from blood loss after a shootout. Instead of arresting him, the NYPD wants the case quietly solved, so they send him off to Chicago. The minute he arrives, he helps a woman who was almost mugged and stares at the criminals with a smile, his fingers in the shape of a gun.
There’s a story which may be apocryphal, but when Michael Winner told Bronson what this film would be about — a man who goes out and shoots muggers — Bronson replied, “I’d like to do that.” Winner said, “The film?” And Bronson replied, “No. Shoot muggers.”
After viewing the film, author Brian Garfield hated how the film advocated vigilantism, so he wrote a sequel called Death Sentence that was made into a movie in 2007 starring Kevin Bacon. No word on whether or not he hated that movie too, as it only keeps a little of the book.
Compared to the heights of mayhem that this series will descend to, this is a retrained meditation of a man facing an increasingly violent world. Stay tuned. Paul Kersey is just getting started.
Death Wish II (1982): Paul Kersey can’t catch a break. Seriously, in this sequel, he goes through the Trials of Job all over again. You think he went through some bad stuff in the first movie? Michael Winner is just getting started putting our vigilante hero through hell on earth.
Paul has taken his daughter Jordan and moved to Los Angeles, where he’s found love again with radio reporter Geri Nichols (Bronson’s wife, Jill Ireland). However, horror and pain is never far from Kersey, so one day at a fair, some punks steal his wallet. He chases one of them down named Jiver down and teaches him a lesson. The gang — Nirvana, Punkcut, Stomper and Cutter (Laurence Fishburne) — find his address in his wallet and pay a visit to his house. They rape his housekeeper Rosario, beat Paul into la la land and steal his daughter (this time played by Robin Sherwood from Tourist Trap). After raping her, she goes even deeper into her depression and jumps out a window, falling to her death and getting impaled like she’s Nikos Karamanlis or Niko Tanopoulos.
Of course, Paul doesn’t need help from the cops. He only needs one thing: to give in to the rage within, to become the vigilante once more. Det. Frank Ochoa is back to chase him one more time, as he’s the only one who can track him.
Soon, Paul is wiping out the gang one by one, his own personal safety and relationship with Geri be damned. This is the first time we discover that Kersey is able to do magical things like make fake IDs with just a Xerox machine and talk his way into anywhere and out of anything. By the end of this film, he’s gone from a man whose life has been destroyed to a walking angel of death willing to do whatever it takes to kill everyone that’s crossed him.
To be as authentic as possible, this movie was shot in the sleaziest parts of Los Angeles, such as the abandoned and crumbling Hollywood Hotel location. Many of the film’s extras were local color who were either hired to play a bit part or just walked over to the set, such as drug addicts, drag queens, Hare Krishnas and bikers. Even crazier, Bronson’s alcoholic brother was a frequent set visitor, constantly asking for money. Bronson wanted to be careful not to give him too much cash so that he wouldn’t be mugged, but that brother was soon found dead, stabbed in the ass.
My favorite part of this was the score, composed by Jimmy Page in his first post-Led Zeppelin musical appearance here by creating the film’s soundtrack. It’s almost surreal to hear his signature guitar tone over Bronson killing rapists.
Death Wish 3 (1985): Paul Kersey is back in New York City, despite being kicked out at the end of the first Death Wish. His Korean War buddy Charley has invited him to ask for help as his East New York apartment building has been under attack by a gang. Paul gets there just in time for his friend to die in his arms and the police arrest him for the murder. Inspector Richard Shriker recognizes him as the vigilante from back in the first movie, so he throws him into a holding cell with the leader of the gang, Manny Fraker (Gavan O’Herlihy, son of Halloween 3: Season of the Witchbad guy par excellence Dan O’Herlihy). After a fistfight ensues, the villain gets released before Paul. If you think that’s the end of all of this, you haven’t been reading our website this week.
Shriker offers our hero a deal: kill all the punks you want, but inform him of any activity so that he can get a big bust and make the news. With that, we’re off and to the races in what is not only the craziest of the Death Wish movies, but perhaps the most bonkers movie you’ll ever see.
Paul moves into his dead friend’s apartment and into a warzone. He makes friends with the other tenants, including World War II vet Bennett Cross (Martin Balsam from Psycho), a kindly old Jewish couple named Mr. and Mrs. Kaprov, a young Hispanic couple named Rodriguez and Maria (a pre-Star Trek: The Next Generation Marina Sirtis who in real life is a Greek girl born in London). There’s even a young kid who continually walks into the path of gunfire. Obviously, this is a neighborhood made for Paul Kersey. It is, as my wife pointed out, Sesame Street where people die horribly.
Paul uses a car as bait for the gang, killing two who break into it. And he saves Maria twice, but the third time, the gang takes her and she soon dies in the hospital, not knowing the most important rule of Death Wish: if you are a woman, stay away from Paul Kersey.
That’s when Paul orders a .475 caliber Wildey Magnum, a gun that has the same muzzle velocity as a .44 Magnum at 1000 yards. This big bore handgun, as Danny Vermin once said, “shoots through schools.” He traps The Giggler by putting his new camera where he knows the criminal can steal it, then he blows him into another dimension with his gigantic handcannon. “I can’t believe they got The Giggler, man,” laments the punk rock gang.
Why this gun? Well, it was Bronson’s personal handgun in real life. According to the gun’s inventor and the film’s technical consultant, Wildey Moore, sales for the Wildey Magnum increase whenever this film airs on TV.
You know who else didn’t get that memo about dating Paul? Public defender Kathryn Davis (Deborah Raffin, The Sentinel), who dates our hero long enough for him to joke that he likes opera and for mohawked punk gang leader Manny to shove the car she is waiting for Paul in toward oncoming traffic, where it explodes in a giant fireball.
Shriker decides that enough is enough and he puts Paul into protective custody. But after the gang blows up Bennett’s taxi garage, the old man tries to use the ancient Browning .30 machine gun that Charley brought back from the war. Sadly, the ancient detective from Psycho is no Roadblock from G.I. Joe and he’s quickly beaten into near death by the gang. Paul is allowed to visit him at the hospital and quickly makes a break to defend his new friends once and for all.
There’s another big machine gun, so Paul and Rodriguez use it to kill every single gangbanger they can before they run out of ammo, just as their neighbors finally come to arms to help them. What follows is what can only be described as sheer orgasmic violence, as hundreds of stunts all happen at the same time. Grenades are thrown from motorcycles. Handgun blasts send people flying through glass windows. Fire is everywhere. And there’s Paul Kersey, walking cooly and doing what he does best: killing punk rock criminals of all colors, races and creeds, including a very young Alex Winter.
Finally, Manny almost kills Paul, but he’s saved by Shriker, who is wounded by the punker but succeeds in shooting him. Kersey calls for an ambulance just as Manny rises, showing his bulletproof vest. In a moment that will live in my mind forever, Paul shoots him dead in the chest with an M72 LAW rocket and sends him flying through the side of the building as his girlfriend (Barbie Wilde, the female Cenobite from Hellraiser) screams in pain, their psychic link obviously broken like Cyclops and Jean Grey on the dark side of the moon. The gang realizes they’re beaten as the cops show up in force, with Kersey simply walking away.
Death Wish 3 is many things, but none of them are subtle. It’s a sledgehammer blow to your sensibilities, a veritable tour of depravity and sadism. It’s also entertaining as hell. Bronson hated Don Jakoby’s (Invaders from Mars, Lifeforce and a frequent collaborator of Dan O’Bannon, with whom he wrote an unproduced script called Pinocchio the Robot that would have featured Lee Marvin as Geppetto!) script and the fact that they turned Paul Kersey into Rambo, but he got $1.5 million for starring in this movie. Frequent rewrites led to Jakoby taking his name off the film and he’s listed as Michael Edmonds.
All told, 74 people die in Death Wish 3, as detailed in this completely amazing article. They are stabbed, shot, run over, set on fire and more. They fall from tall buildings. They are thrown from tall buildings. And there’s a gang that combines all races and creeds — except old people — including white supremacists, punk rockers and lovers of reggae. It is the rainbow coalition of death. There was also a video game that lives up to the violence on screen.
The film also includes a rape scene with the victim played by Sandy Grizzle, who was the girlfriend of director Michael Winner. After they broke up, she reported to London tabloids that this was part of him treating her as a sex slave. Winner sued the News of the World tabloid and won.
Before you scoff at this notion, keep in mind that Winner spent six days filming the rape scene in Death Wish 2, a movie that took from May to July of 1981 to shoot. Also, following the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein in 2017, Winner was accused by three women of demanding they expose their breasts to him. Seeing as how he’s not around to refute the charges, let’s just move on.
Beyond these rumors, Winner was the kind of special individual that almost died from eating dinner — twice. He got the bacterial infection vibrio vulnificus from eating an oyster in Barbados, nearly losing his leg and his life. Then, years later, he’d almost die from food poisoning after eating steak tartare four days in a row. He died in 2013 at the age of 77.
Let’s ignore the gossip on Michael Winner and concentrate on how awesome Death Wish 3 is. Because wow, they literally can’t, don’t — and some folks would say probably shouldn’t — make them like this anymore.
Death Wish 4: The Crackdown (1987): Where do you go after the utter lunacy that is Death Wish 3? Well, you replace Michael Winner with J. Lee Thompson, who was the director for The Guns of Navarone, the original Cape Fear, the slashtastic Happy Birthday to Me and The Reincarnation of Peter Proud amongst many other films. He’d already worked with Bronson on 10 to Midnight, Murphy’s Law and The Evil That Men Do and would also direct Bronson in Messenger of Death and Kinjite: Forbidden Subjects after this movie wrapped. In fact, counting St. Ives, The White Buffalo and Caboblanco, they’d work on seven movies together.
Paul Kersey hasn’t learned anything from the last three movies. He has a new girlfriend, Karen Sheldon (Kay Lenz, The Initiation of Sarah, House) with a teenage daughter named Erica (Dana Barron, the original Audrey from National Lampoon’s Vacation) that you shouldn’t get to know all that well. That’s because — surprise! — she overdoses thanks to her boyfriend and her getting into crack cocaine and doing it an arcade. If you’re shocked that a Death Wish movie would prey upon the worst fears of America’s middle class, then you may have watched the last three films too.
Paul loved that girl like his own daughter, probably because she wanted to be an architect like him and also possibly because he hasn’t yet learned that the moment that he says something like that, tragedy is right around the corner. Honestly, the main message of the Death Wish films is that God hates Paul Kersey, will not allow him to die and will wait until he finds happiness again before visiting upon him great suffering, only for the cycle to repeat.
The night she died, Paul saw Erica smoke a joint with her boyfriend and was already suspecting the young dude, so he follows him back to the arcade the next night. That boyfriend confronts Jojo and Jesse (Tim Russ, Commander Tuvok himself!), two of the dealers who sold them the crack cocaine, and threatens to go to the police. This being a Death Wish film, they kill him pretty much in public. That murder unlocks the ability for Paul to start killing again, so he shoots Jojo and launches his body on to the top of bumper cars, where he’s electrocuted. No one dies in a Death Wish movie without a flourish.
Meanwhile, Paul gets a call from tabloid publisher Nathan White (John P. Ryan from It’s Alive), who knows that he’s the vigilante. His daughter had also become addicted to drugs and died, so he knows what Paul is going through. The storyline becomes pretty much like The Punisher’s first mini-series where The Trust paid for him to wipe out crime, as White funds Paul’s one man war against drugs while his girlfriend starts writing an expose on the two rival gangs in town.
To cut down the budget in this movie, when Paul and Nathan meet in the movie theater, that’s Cannon’s screening room.
One of those gangs is led by Ed Zacharias (Perry Lopez, Creature from the Black Lagoon) and the other is commanded by Jack and Tony Romero. Two LAPD officers, Sid Reiner and Phil Nozaki are also on the case, trying to figure out who killed the drug dealers at the arcade.
This is the first Death Wish film where Paul feels more like an urban James Bond than a fed up war vet. Trust me, he gets even more gadgets in the next one. Here, he uses his skills as a master of disguise — he has none — to dress as a waiter and serve a party at Zacharias’ house. The birthday cake is…man, let me just show you the birthday cake.
After witnessing the drug lord kill one of his guys who stole some cocaine, he’s ordered to help carry out the body. Soon, he’s killing all of that drug dealer’s men, including three guys in an Italian restaurant with a bomb shaped like a wine bottle. Look for a really young Danny Trejo in this scene!
After all that mayhem, Paul also starts wiping out the Romero gang one by one, including breaking onto a drug front and blowing it up with a bomb. Yet Nozaki ends up being on the take for Zacharias and tries to kill our hero and you know how well that works out. Now Paul looks like a cop killer, too.
In the stuntman piece de resistance of this one, the two drug lords are lured into an oil field shootout where Paul kills Zacharius with a high-powered rifle, instigating the fireworks. Nathan comes out to congratulate Paul, but sets him up with a car bomb. It turns out that the Nathan that Paul has met is a third drug lord (!) who set him up to take out all the competition. Then, two fake cops arrest Paul and take him downtown, but they’re really just trying to kill our hero. Again, you know how well that works.
The film ends with Detective Reiner searching for Paul out of revenge for his partner’s murder, the third drug lord kidnapping Paul’s woman and everything coming together in a parking lot and a roller rink where Paul uses an M16 with an equipped M203 grenade launcher to unleash holy hell.
Only the drug lord survives, holding Karen. She tried to escape and gets shot numerous times with a MAC 10 submachine gun. He tries to kill Paul but he’s out of bullets. Paul may be, but he still has a grenade, which he uses to blow the villain up real good.
The film closes with Reiner coming and ordering Paul to surrender and threatening to kill him if he walks away. “Do whatever you have to,” says the old gunfighter as he walks into the sunset.
For all the mayhem and madness throughout this film — keep in mind our hero just used an explosive device to decimate another bad guy just seconds before — this is a poignant ending. But of course, Paul — whether he wanted to use the new last name Kimble he came up with in this film or Kersey — would be back one more time.
Bronson made $4 million for this movie and in my opinion, he should have asked for more.
Death Wish 5: The Face of Death (1994): You think Paul Kersey has learned his lesson about love and loss? No way, pal. Now back in New York City in the witness protection program and going by Paul Stewart, he’s keeping a low profile by going to fashion shows with his super hot girlfriend (Lesley-Anne Down) who also has a young daughter named Chelsea who is surely doomed. Come on, everyone. We’ve made it this far. We may as well watch Death Wish 5: The Face of Death.
It turns out that Olivia has been paying protection money to her evil mobster ex-husband Tommy O’Shea, who is Michael Parks! Paul confronts the guy at the fashion show, but one of the villain’s goons shows him his revolver. He tries to do the right thing and brings in a District Attorney.
Paul again proves he has no short or long-term memory by proposing to Olivia, who doesn’t understand what we all have accepted: God hates Paul Kersey like He has never hated another of His creations. Excusing herself to the powder room to piddle in absolute joy after being asked to be the life partner of a man who has personally murdered thousands of scumwads, one of Tommy’s men named Flakes (Robert Joy, Lizard from The Hills Have Eyesand, as my wife would exclaim loudly, Jim from Desperately Seeking Susan) shoves her face so hard into a mirror that she’s disfigured for life. Even surgery won’t fix her face. Such is the life of a woman who gets involved with Paul Kersey.
After meeting two cops, Mickey King (Windom Earle from Twin Peaks!) and Janice Omori, the female cop dies in the very next scene. She must have gotten a little too close to Paul. In the hospital, King tells Kersey not to go back to his old ways. King tells him that he’s been on this case for 16 years. “16 years? That’s a long time to be failing,” replies Kersey.
Even after getting out of the hospital, Olivia still has to deal with the life she’s chosen as more henchmen come after Paul, shooting her in the back and finally ending her suffering. Well, it turns out that Tommy runs all of the police and has taken his daughter back, so Paul goes full on 007 by killing one goon with poisoned canoli and another with a remote-controlled soccer ball! At this point, this film has gone from boring to right where I want it to be.
What follows is exactly what we want to see: a slasher movie with the righteous Paul going old man nutzoid on every crook there is left, shooting them into sewing machines, slashing their faces with broken bottles and shotgun blasting them into acid baths. At the end, he walks away with his dead fiancee’s daughter, yelling to the cop who couldn’t keep up, “Hey Lieutenant, if you need any help, give me a call.”
After the last three movies coming from Cannon Films, which was in Chapter 11 bankruptcy and under investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, this one comes from Menahem Golan’s new 21st Century Film Corporation. They were having trouble making money and figured that a new Death Wish was going to be a sure-fire hit. Incredibly, for reasons no one is sure about, Bronson and Golan weren’t speaking during the filming, so they’d only communicate through Allan A. Goldstein.
Sadly, the film failed at the box office (but it did fine on home video). Golan planned to continue the film series without Bronson (!) and was planing Death Wish 6: The New Vigilante before 21st Century Film Corporation went bankrupt. This would be Bronson’s last theatrical film, as he was 71 years old as this was being filmed.
Death Wish (2018): Written by Joe Carnahan (writer and director of Smokin’ Aces and the movie version of The A-Team, as well as a member of the Creative Council of Represent.Us, a nonpartisan anti-corruption organization) and directed by Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, The Green Inferno), Death Wish was a movie delayed several times by the rampant mass shootings in our country. It arrives at a time when the debate over guns has reached a fever pitch. That said, one viewing of The Killing of America, made way back in 1982, shows that that argument has been going on almost the entire way back to the original Death Wish series.
Do we need another Death Wish? After all, there were five different movies already. Is there something new that the film can speak to? This one attempts to, with numerous blips of info from various media sources as diverse as Chicago DJ Mancow, memes and the site mediatakeout to hip hop’s Sway in the Morning.
Paul Kersey (Willis) and his wife (Elisabeth Shue) are getting ready to say goodbye to their daughter Jordan before she goes to college. After lunch at a restaurant, a valet looks up their home address on their car after hearing they’ll all be out that night. However, Paul gets called into his job as a trauma surgeon — instead of an architect — leaving his family alone at home. This being Death Wish, I’m certain we can all guess what happens next.
Police Detective Kevin Raines (Dean Norris, Starship Troopers) and Detective Leonore Jackson are the cops in charge of the case, but they aren’t getting anywhere. Jordan remains in a coma while Paul grieves for his dead wife, including trying to stop a mugging which ends up with him being beaten. He debates buying a gun but realizes he’ll have to register it and be videotaped (the film wavers here between gun ownership being too easy and providing the right info).
A patient drops a Glock 17 while Paul tries to save his life and thanks to online videos, Paul learns how to use it. Soon, he’s stopping carjackings and killing drug dealers and has been dubbed the Grim Reaper by the media.
When Paul recognizes his stolen watch on a man’s wrist, he uses that man’s phone to get closer to the men who destroyed his family. One by one, he eliminates them before realizing that his actions have brought his family — daughter Jordan, who has emerged from her coma, and brother Frank (Vincent D’Onofrio) — into the killer’s sights.
Paul then uses his legally purchased weapons to defend his home, the police come after its all over and our hero easily explains that he’s not the Grim Reaper. Free of consequence, he’s able to take his daughter to college in New York City. There, he sees a mugging and stares right at the criminals, making the same finger pistol mannerism that Bronson used at the end of the first Death Wish. Interestingly enough, this is an inversion of the original film’s ending, where Kersey moves from New York City to Chicago.
Seeing as how director Eli Roth loves exploitation films, there are plenty of references, such as Paul telling a criminal that he’s torturing that he’s about. to put them into “the most pain a human can endure before going into cardiac arrest,” a fact discovered by scientists of Unit 731 and chronicled by the movie Men Behind the Sun. That scene also uses the Sorcery song “Sacrifice,” which comes from the film Stunt Rock (Sorcery also played the band Headmistress in Rocktober Blood). And a trivia note just for my wife: the last movie that Elisabeth Shue and Vincent D’Onofrio appeared in together was Adventures in Babysitting, which also takes place in Chicago.
This isn’t a bad film. But there’s no real reason for it to exist as it says nothing new other than being a serviceable action film. It’s been criticized as alt right and racist, but I think any Death Wish film is going to be branded the same way. I thought it was pretty even in its depiction and had plenty of different voices throughout.
Want to know more about Death Wish?
Death Kiss: This 2018 film features Bronson clone Robert Bronzi.
A breakdown of cover versions of Death Wish: From two Turkish remakes to an adult version, there have been plenty of Death Wish ripoffs.
Cellat: The Turkish Death Wish somehow gets parts of the second movie into their story years before it was filmed.
Editor’s note: To check out Wild Things, click here.
Wild Things 2 (2004): Directed by Jack Perez (Unauthorized: The Mary Kay Letourneau Story, Unauthorized: Brady Bunch – The Final Days) and written by Ross Helford (who also wrote the Sniper sequels) and Andy Hurst (who wrote the sequel to Single White Female), this movie does credit Stephen Peters for characters, but there’s not a single continuing character. In fact, it’s pretty much the same story and a very similar threesome scene, which you’ll soon discover just might be the defining moment of any movie called Wild Things.
Brittney Havers (Susan Ward) is a wealthy Florida high school senior who has list her mother to a car crash on Gator Alley — where she was presumably devoured by alligators — and her stepfather Niles Dunlap (Anthony Denison, who was Joey Buttafucco in The Amy Fisher Story, the Drew Barrymore one) has just died when his private plane went down. She’s about to earn a small amount of money each year until she’s done with college and then $25,000 a year, with the rest of the will — $70 million dollars worth — going to an heir if they can be found. That heir ends up being one of her classmates, Maya King (Leila Arcieri).
We soon see Brittney, Maya and the DNA test doctor all having some MFF action, which clues us in that this is all a ruse. Insurance investigator Terence Bridge (Isaiah Washington) thinks that it’s a scam too, as Dunlap once had scarlet fever and was possibly sterile. That means the DNA doctor is a crocodile meal and then, well, the twists and turns start to add up. Dead people are alive, partners get double-crossed, people on the side of the law aren’t and there’s even an open ending that makes you think that the backstabbing hasn’t stopped.
Imagine if they just redid the first one, had no major stars, still had the threesome scene and shot it like a prime time soap opera. That’s kind of a success in my book.
Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005): I love when a movie can be sold just on the title and doesn’t need to be tied into anything in any of the other movies in the series. So here we go. Another Wild Things, this one directed by Jay Lowi (Tangled) from a script by Andy Hurst and Ross Helfer, the same guys who wrote the last one.
Marie Clifton was given two diamonds — the “mother and daughter” — in her mother’s will, but her step-father Jay Clifton (Brad Johnson, who was in Nam Angels and was also a former Marlboro Man) has changed the will because he wants them for himself.
Meanwhile, there’s a sex ed seminar at school with Dr. Chad Johnson and probation officer Kristen Richards (Dina Meyer, once Batgirl on Birds of Prey as well as roles in D-Tox, Starship Troopers and Saw), who reveals that she was the victim of a sex crime when she was in high school, which totally shuts down the raucous senior audience.
Now here’s where the Wild Things drama comes in: Marie has a swim meet and her stepfather meets towel girl Elena Sandoval (Sanda McCoy, who was in the secret Porky’s movie Porky’s: Pimpin’ Pee Wee), who he invites to Marie’s eighteenth birthday party. The girls do not get along — that’s putting it mildly — so Jay takes her to one of his construction sites and you know what happens next allegedly. Now, Detective Michael Morrison (Linden Ashby) and Richards are on the case, along with Dr. Johnson, who is to examine Elena.
If you’re wondering how long it takes until Marie, Elena and the doctor are all reenacting scenes from You, Me and Dupree, it’s about as long as it takes to read this sentence.
But man, the twists and turns of this one are so plentiful that they take one of the things that worked so well in the original movie and show how it all came together over the credits. And for some reason, the good guys actually come out on top in this one.
How much sex, illegitimate children, gator eating and swamp chases can one small Florida town have? Well, they made four movies out of this. There’s your answer. This one has the sense to just go wild — no pun intended.
Wild Things: Foursome (2010): Each Wild Things movie seems like a remake of sorts. This installment has Andy Hurst, who wrote the second and third, directing and a script by Howard Zemski and Monty Featherstone, the team who wrote Sharkman.
The major difference is that this time, we’re talking about twenty-year-olds and not high schoolers. Carson Wheetly (Ashley Parker Angel, who was in O-Town) is the rich and spoiled son of NASCAR car racer Ted Wheetly (Cameron Daddo). He thinks his dad may have killed his mother, but first, let’s get to this movie’s other main difference.
Whereas every Wild Things is built around a threesome, this one goes one better and has, as the title spoils for you, a foursome between Carson, his girlfriend Rachel Thomas (Marnette Patterson), Brandi Cox (Jillian Murray, Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero) and Linda Dobson (Jessie Nickson).
Within a few days of that MFFF miracle — surely Carson is some level of science fiction character or at least a former boy band member — his father dies in a car crash that Bruno Mattei’s some Days of Thunder footage. That death is suspicious, so Detective Frank Walker (John Schneider, who may know a thing or two about car crashes) starts to investigate just as the will is announced, which states that Carson cannot inherit his father’s money and estate until he turns thirty or marries.
That means a quick marriage to Rachel, but they had a deal with everyone in the foursome, so Brandi and Linda seem to be dead meat, except that Rachel and Brandi are also working together to kill Carson. Once the girls end up — spoiler warning — using sex to kill Carson, they start conspiring to keep making love and attempting to murder one another.
This is the sort of movie that keeps the twists coming after the credits roll. All I have to say is keep your eye on lawyer George Stuben (Ethan Smith).
I miss the swamps of the other movies, but appreciate that this one is all about death and sex, which let’s face it, all giallo should be. It doesn’t get to that level, as it needs more fashion and better music, but it certainly has the sleaze — well, homogenized 2000s sleaze — going for it.
I kind of wish there was a fifth movie just to see if they’d get a fiveway into it.
Consider Tubi the Wild Things network, because they have every one of these movies.
Freaky Friday started as a novel written by Mary Rodgers, based on Vice Versa: A Lesson to Fathers by F. Anstey, a story in which the protagonists are father and son. In Rodgers’ book, 13-year-old Annabel Andrews and her mother spend time in each other’s bodies. The novel was so popular that Disney as made it four times an Rodgers also mae several sequels herself, such as A Billion for Boris/ESPTV and Summer Switch (which ABC made into TV movies). The major difference between the novel and the films is that an outside influence switches the mother and daughter against their wills.
Freaky Friday (1976): “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day.” That’s all it takes to start off this crazy adventure for Ellen Harris (Barbara Harris) and her daughter Annabel (Jodie Foster).
Based on the 1972 novel by Mary Rodgers — who also wrote the screenplay — the magic that switches the mother and daughter in this movie is quite simple. In Friday the 13th, all you have to do is say, “I wish I could switch places with her for just one day” and it happens.
Actually, this whole thing reminds me of Goofy Minds the House, a 1977 Disney Wonderful World of Reading storybook that features the character Goofy and his wife switching jobs for one day and learning that they both have rough lives. That story was based on a Norwegian folktale and taught me that women were much stronger than men. Also — Goofy once had a wife named Mrs. Geef and Mrs. Goof, but now he’s thought to be dating Clarabelle the Cow, so something happened at some point. Perhaps even odder, Goofy was once called Dippy Dawg.
But I digress.
Just as much as that story is part of my childhood, so is Freaky Friday, a movie that I know for a fact that I saw at the Spotlite 88 Drive-In in Beaver Falls, PA.
Ellen Andrews and her daughter Annabel are constantly battling with one another until they switch places, which enables each of them to see life from the other side, connect better with other people and, of course, water ski.
The cast of this movie is made up of people that a five year old me would see as big stars, like John Astin, Dick Can Patten, Charlene Tilton, Marc McClure and, of course, Boss Hogg. Strangely enough, George Lucas wanted Foster for the role of Princess Leia, but her mother wanted her to complete her contract to Disney.
Disney can’t seem to stop remaking this movie. And really, no one else can either, because it’s the mother of body switch comedies, including 18 Again!, All of Me,Dream a Little Dream, Vice Versa and Freaky, a film which combines the Friday the 13th of this story with the slasher side of the holiday.
Freaky Friday (1995): This made-for-TV movie has Shelly Long as Ellen and Gaby Hoffman (the daughter of Warhol superstar Viva) as Annabelle. A pair of magical amulets causes the two of them to switch bodies in this version and waterskiing has been replaced with diving.
Ellen is also a single mother dating Bill (Alan Rosenberg) and designing clothing, which is the 90s version of being a housewife. What livens this up is a great cast with Drew Carey, Sandra Bernhard, Carol Kane and the much-missed Taylor Negron.
Writer Stu Krieger wrote The Parent Trap II, A Troll in Central Park, Zenon: Girlof the 21st Centuryand Phantom of the Megaplex while director Melanie Mayron is probably best known for playing Melissa Steadman on Thirtysomething even though she has more than sixty directing credits on her resume.
The other big change is that when Annabelle is in Ellen’s body, she tells Bill exactly how much she dislikes him, thinking it will push him away. Instead, he proposes.
Forgive me for being weird, but…do these characters ever have to make love in these bodies? Because, well, that could be awkward.
Freaky Friday (2003): I spoke too soon about the sexual side of Freaky Friday, as this movie, while chaste, does not shy away from the fact that Jake (Chad Michael Murray) has feelings for Anna (Lindsay Lohan) no matter if she’s in her body or the body of her mother, Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis). The attraction that Jake feels, while mental, is way hotter than the way Marc McClure reacted to Barbara Harris.
Written by Heather Hach (Legally Blonde: The Musical, What To Expect When You’re Expecting and a gym teacher in this movie) and Leslie Dixon (Overboard, Loverboy, the 2007 Hairspray) and directed by Mark Walters (who worked with Dixon again on Just Like Heaven; he also directed Mean Girls, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, the gender-swapped He’s All That and Mr. Popper’s Penguins), this take on the story retains the single mother idea from the 1995 TV movie and has Mark Harmon play Ryan, the potential new father in Anna’s life.
Lohan’s character was originally written as a goth girl and she didn’t think anyone would relate to that, so she showed up dressed like a preppie. Somehow, she was convinced to play a grunge girl instead. I mean, she has a band called Pink Slip and plays guitar instead of water skiing or driving.
The McGuffin that drives this film is a pair of fortune cookies mixed with an earthquake switches bodies for Anna and Tess, which leads to Anna lecturing teachers and Tess being more loud and wild.
As for the casting, it really works. The original idea was for Jodie Foster to play Tess, but she didn’t like the stunt casting. Then, Annette Bening and Kelly Osbourne were going to be the leads — with Tom Selleck as Ryan — but Bening dropped out and Osbourne’s mother got cancer.
Probably the only downside is that this movie falls back on that Hollywood cliche of Asian people being able to magically change lives.
Is it weird that I know that the band Orgy taught Jamie Lee how to play guitar? Why do I have these facts inside my head? And how weird is it to hear “Flight Test” by the Flaming Lips in a Disney movie? Or Joey Ramone covering “What A Wonderful World?”
Freaky Friday (2018): It’s wild that Steve Carr made Next Friday and a Freaky Friday sequel. And this time, I had no idea I was getting into a musical. Cozi Zuehlsdorff from the Dolphin Tale movies is Ellie Blake and her mother Katherine is played by Heidi Blickenstaff, who played the role on stage. Seriously, this is a full-blown bing singing musical and also a version of the story that leans in on Ellie being a total slob with a filthy room, a girl who always wears the same clothes every day and who would totally be the kind of arty disaffected young girl who I’d be too shy to talk to and leave mixtapes in her locker. Or maybe text her Spotify links now, I guess, right?
A magical hourglass — given to Ellie by her late father, a Freaky Friday story beat retained from the last few versions — is the storytelling device that switches the daughter and mother. There’s also a scavenger hunt that an entire school is absolutely obsessed by, making this also an updating of Midnight Madness.
This was the first Disney movie made from one of their stage plays and it didn’t get great ratings. It’s fine — obviously there are a ton of different versions of Freaky Friday for you to watch. I’d place it slightly ahead of the Shelley Long version, but way behind everything else.
Freaky (2020): By all rights, I should hate this movie, a semi-remake of Freaky Friday that instead subverts the source material by turning it into a slasher. But you know, it ended up hitting me the right way and I was behind it pretty much all the way.
Directed by Christopher Beau Landon — yes, the son of Michael — who wrote Disturbia — that’s not even a word — and several of the Paranormal Activitymovies before directing the Happy Death Day films. If you liked those, well, this will definitely give you more of what those movies offered, this is set in the same universe — Landon said that, “They definitely share the same DNA and there’s a good chance Millie and Tree will bump into each other someday” — and was originally titled Freaky Friday the 13th.
Millie Kessler (Kathryn Newton, Big Little Lies) is a teenager who has been tormented by bullies, both of the teenager and teacher* varieties. Meanwhile, the urban legend of the Blissfield Butcher continues, as he keeps killing her classmates. Now that he possesses a McGuffin called La Dola — an ancient Mayan sacrificial dagger — he looks to gain even more power. But when he runs into our heroine — her mother (Katie Finneran, who is great in this) has left her behind at a football game where all she gets to do is wear a beaver mascot costume — she battles the Butcher and when he stabs her, they end up switching bodies.
So yeah — this turns into a body swap comedy and you’d think, after the gory as hell open, this is where they lose you. But no — if anything, this gets way more fun.
Millie’s friends make for some of the best scenes in the film. Nyla (Celeste O’Connor) and Josh (Misha Osherovich) have been with her through the worst parts of high school, so having their best friend in the body of a killing machine is just another trial to be endured.
Speaking of that killer, Vince Vaughn shines in this. There’s plenty of silly physical comedy, but also some really nice scenes like when he admits to the love interest that she left the note he treasures (body swap pronouns are a little hard) or when he has a moment with her mother while hiding in a changing room.
Landon — who wrote the movie along with Michael Kennedy — said that the film was influenced by the Screamseries, along with Cherry Falls, Fright Night, Jennifer’s Body, The Bloband Urban Legend. There’s also a fair bit of Halloween in here, particularly the opening series of murders, and references to Heathers, Child’s Play, Creepshow, Galaxy Quest, Carrie, The Faculty, The Craft and Supernatural. There’s also a bottle down the throat kill that came directly from the 2009 slasher remake Sorority Row.
I had fun with this. Here’s hoping you do the same.
*The funny thing is that the teacher that is the worst to her is Alan Ruck, who knows a thing about bring bullied, what with playing Cameron in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
Ice Cube and DJ Pooh felt that movies only showed the dark side of the urban experience. Cube had the vision of making a “hood classic” that would be rewatched over and over again and based much of the script — only the third he had written — on his life. They got New Line interested in the film — the studio had made House Party — and Cube hired video direct F. Gary Grey.
His only worry? Doing comedy when up until then, he was considered a dangerous thug.
Grey said, “Ice Cube was the toughest man in America, and when you take someone (who) delivers hard-hitting social issues in hardcore gangsta rap, and who has a hardcore view on politics, you would never think comedy.”
Friday (1995): Craig Jones (Ice Cube) just got fired on his day off (this actually happened to one of Cube’s cousins), giving him the entire Friday to spend with his best friend, Smokey (Chris Tucker, a comedian whose first audition didn’t go well but who trained, came back and won the part). They smoke Smokey’s stash — $200 worth of weed — and if they can’t pay Big Worm (Faizon Love) by 10 p.m., they’re dead.
The episodic movie finds Craig and Smokey trying to get that money, whether through borrowing, begging or stealing. They also run into Deebo (Tiny Lister Jr.), a gigantic maniac who forces Smokey to break into a house, after which he steals the money that Smokey has ripped off.
Friday seems like a modern day take on Cheech and Chong in the best of ways, while keeping more focus. It also has time for plenty of great cameos, like the sadly long gone Bernie Mac as a preacher, John Witherspoon as Craig’s father, Regina King as his sister and DJ Pooh as Red.
Shot in Grey’s actual home block in the homes of his friends, you can even see some members of the neighborhood show up that refused to move from the spot they were in. Grey just filmed around them as well as he could. Additionally, the cast and crew not to wear anything red during filming, as 126th Street between Halldale and Normandie was Crips territory.
Friday made more than eight times what it cost to make. Ice Cube and DJ Pooh had the right idea.
Next Friday (2000): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Steve Carr, who also worked with Cube on Are We There Yet?, Next Friday made $60 million off an $11 million budget, defying critics who hated the films — again, much lilke Cheech and Chong.
When Deebo escapes from prison to get revenge on Craig, Craig’s father Willie moves him to Rancho Cucamonga to live with his uncle Elroy (Don D.C. Curry), who has just won the lottery, and cousin Day-Day (Mike Epps). Day-Day makes a decent replacement for Smoky, as Chris Tucker didn’t come back for the second movie as he became a born again Christian.
Beyond dealing with the threat of an escaped Deebo, now Craig and Day-Day must avoid baby mamas, a gang called the Jokers and try to keep Day-Day’s record store job. While the move to the suburbs offers some fun joke, Tucker’s prescence is definitely missed. Then again, I find myself loving that Ice Cube is so loveable in these films, particularly after albums like “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted” in which he unleashed venomous hatred on nearly every ethnicity and human being within the reach of his booming voice.
Friday After Next (2002): Written by Ice Cube and directed by Marcus Raboy, the third Friday movie again was rejected by critics and embraced by the audience that it was made for. It starts on Christmas Eve as a thief breaks into the home of Craig (Cube) and Day-Day (Mike Epps), stealing everything they’ve bought for their family and friends. Also — the rent is due and if they don’t get it soon, their landlady is going to unleash her just released from jail son Damon (Terry Crews) on them and in a violently loving fashion, if you get what I’m saying.
The setting in this sequel moves from the suburbs to a strip mall, a place where their fathers — Willie (John Witherspoon) and Elroy (Don D.C. Curry) — have started a BBQ place so good you’ll slap your mother. It’s also where Money Mike (Katt Williams) and his main girl Donna (K.D. Aubert) have started the store Pimps and Hoes.
Obviously, by the third movie you’re just hoping for more hangout time with the leads and less expecting a groundbreaking effort. That said, this is a goofball bit of harmless fun, a good holiday movie to throw on if you’re sick of the same films every December and makes me hope that we get one more of these movies.
Somehow, I never saw a single one of these movies before, but I must confess, they made a nice break this week, a breezy bit of fun and light laughs in the midst of dark times.